Guest Post: Gregory D Little, Unwilling Souls/Ungrateful Gods

Last year I read Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little.  This was one of my favourite books out of the 30 I checked out as part of an event called the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  My review is here.  Luckily Greg accepted my invitation to visit and provide a guest post and today, I’m really pleased to welcome him to my blog.  Thanks for taking part.

First off, huge thanks to Lynn for welcoming me to her blog! When she so kindly offered to let me do a guest post after my book, Unwilling Souls, narrowly missed the finals of #SFPBO 2, I jumped at the chance. With the release of my next book in the series, Ungrateful God (which comes out March 24th, 2017), I figured a perfect topic would be to discuss the challenge of writing sequels.

Ungrateful God is the first sequel I’ve actually put to paper. As with most things you do for the first time, reality frequently failed to conform to my expectations.

Greg’s Misconception #1: “Book 1 was a big chase across multiple crazy cities. Nobody is going to want to see that again.”

Unwilling Souls focuses on Ses Lucani’s plight as the secret daughter of a terrorist mastermind and a business magnate in a society on the cusp of industrialization-by-magic. Early on she has the misfortune to be present in the prison of the gods (where she apprentices to be a kind of smith that functions as one of their jailers) during a terrorist attack trying to break open the prison. Her father is the natural suspect, so Ses is forced to run and is pursued incessantly by agents of the Centrality government. While trying to find asylum with one of her parents, she flees from a city carved entirely into an immense crocodile skull to a city built into the skeleton of a titanic snake draped across a mountain pass to a city built into the dead husk of a gigantic tarantula whose horse-sized offspring serve as a kind of police force.

For Ungrateful God, I worried that repeating this format would come across as boring or self-indulgent with regard to the worldbuilding. I wanted to narrow the focus in Ses’s story to a single location, a barnacle city studding the husk of a vast ghost crab, and really dig into a single, driving mystery: why can’t anyone remember what happens there at night?

But my editor was concerned. Had I drifted too far from the brand expectation my first book had set up? Would people expect another rollicking world-tour novel and be turned away by the slower-burning mystery? I took his concerns to heart and rewrote much of Ungrateful God’s first third, attempting to amplify the sense of danger and menace Ses faces and introducing the main villain earlier on. I’m very pleased with the end result, and while the book still feels different than its predecessor (a goal of mine for the series), I think the build up to the ABSOLUTELY INSANE back half will keep readers fully invested.

Greg’s Misconception #2: “This will be easy! I’ve already done the worldbuilding legwork in the first book! Now I can just reap the rewards!”

Oh, past-self, what a fool you were. While it’s true that I laid the groundwork in the first book, a sequel has to catch readers up on all that to make sure it is fresh in their minds. Also, people forget important plot points and there is always the chance a reader will pick up and read the second book in the series first, so not only did I have to catch readers up on the worldbuilding from the first book, but the plot as well. (Note: while I’ve done my best to bring readers up-to-speed on events and I’d rather you buy the second book than none of them, I can’t recommend strongly enough starting with Unwilling Souls. This is a serialized, not an episodic, series.)

In addition, I obviously wanted to expand upon—and on occasion, subvert—what Ses knows or believes she knows about how the world around her works. This keeps the sense of wonder (sometimes horror) fresh for both her and the reader. So where she gains a kind of mind control power she barely understands in Unwilling Souls, in Ungrateful God she learns a bit more about it and the hazards, both moral and mortal, it can pose. If I do my job right, each book in the series will reframe the reader’s view of the world.

Greg’s Misconception #3: “I’ve written books with tons of POVs before! Surely adding a second POV to this series won’t create too many problems.”

Adding secondary POVs has been the plan since early on, as I want the series to grow more epic in scope with each installment, and one way to do that is to increase the number of vantage points who can impact and inform the plot. For readers of Unwilling Souls, I’m pleased to report that you’ll very much recognize the new POV character, and should have some strong opinions about them.

Aside from expanding the overall scope of the series, my goals for this secondary POV were to provide another look at a controversial character we’d heretofore only seen from Ses’s POV, and to spend some more time in the Pit, the hollowed-out center of the planet in which the gods have been imprisoned. I had multiple calls from readers to set more scenes there. My editor liked the secondary plot, but said I needed to find a way to better (and earlier) tie it back to Ses’s story. Since the two plots are physically separate, I turned to that old staple of tension, dramatic irony. Now something one character overhears can inform the reader of a crucial bit of information regarding the other plot without tipping off that character too early, and two separate but related plots can gradually thread themselves together while retaining their autonomy.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll check out my work! I can’t wait to see the challenges a third book will bring. Thanks again to Lynn for the generous offer and all her effort in the #SPFBO!

Greg.  Thanks so much for the guest post – hope everyone enjoys reading about your experience writing a sequel.  I’m looking forward to picking up No.2 soon.

And finally, a few links:

Goodreads: Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God

About the author:

Rocket Scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little’s short fiction has appeared in The Colored Lens and A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He is currently working on his fantasy YA series Unwilling Souls, set in a world where technology is powered by the souls of the dead, the gods are locked away in the hollowed out center of the planet, and what remains of humanity has rebuilt its cities out of the corpses of the great beasts that destroyed them.

Gregory D. Little is a member of and regular contributor to the Fictorians writing blog (www.fictorians.com). He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

www.gregorydlittle.com
www.facebook.com/gregorydlittleauthor

Purchase Links:

Unwilling Souls
Book 1 of the Unwilling Souls series

Ungrateful God
Book 2 of the Unwilling Souls series

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3 Responses to “Guest Post: Gregory D Little, Unwilling Souls/Ungrateful Gods”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Great post! I definitely remember Lynn’s review of Unwilling Souls from the first phase of SPFBO – it looked like a strong contender and I pretty smitten with the cover to boot 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I like the two covers together – they look really good I think.
      Lynn 😀

    • litgreg

      Thank you Mogsy! Holly Heisey is a fantastic cover artist. I agree, Lynn, I can’t wait for there to be a third! 😀

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